A litter of pure-bred Shetland sheepdog puppies has recently been born in the isles, the first for around 15 years.
Proud owner Marion Slater of Tresta said the three puppies, now six weeks old, were “so cute”, and “bundles of fun and life”.
The two male puppies are already spoken for and will be sold as pets, but the family will be keeping the female. But, for now, they belong to the Slater family. Mrs Slater said: “I’m braaly proud of them, they’re so bonny.”
Mrs Slater, who had bred pedigree Shetland sheepdogs in the past, had a long search to find a suitable mother to breed from this time around.
After contacting the Kennel Club and various breeders, she located the female of her choice in Birmingham five years ago and made the journey down to buy her just before Christmas that year. The family named her Mystery because of the search involved in finding her.
Then came the problem of finding a male Shetland sheep dog to mate with. This proved difficult – there are not many pedigree Shetland sheepdogs around and many of these are “too petted” to be interested.
The people in Birmingham were very helpful in encouraging the breeding process, Mrs Slater said.
A male champion was tracked down in Glasgow two years ago and mating did take place, but the result was two dead puppies. But then a male pedigree puppy came to Shetland – two-year-old Paddy, owned by June and Andrew Leask from Tingwall.
He was excited by the prospect of mating with Mystery. “He got the way of it,” Mrs Slater said, and after a nine-week pregnancy the present litter was born. The birth took place by caesarean section on 10th January at the Bixter vet’s practice, with the biggest puppy weighing 203g.
They were (and still are) “absolutely beautiful, all perfect”, the males being shaded sable, with red sable fur with black tips, white collars, white feet and tail tip and a white strip on the face, and the female sable and white.
After the operation Mystery’s milk failed to come in and the puppies had to be bottle fed for the first three days, but then she resumed feeding her offspring. They lived on milk only for the first four weeks but are now on Ready-Brek. “A very messy procedure but I absolutely wouldn’t change anything,” said Mrs Slater.
The two males, Milo and Piper, have been sold for £600 each – and could command a lot more, £1,000 is not unusual on the mainland – and are destined for “fantastic homes” in Gulberwick and Lerwick. They will leave the Slaters on 5th March.
The female, Missy, will stay with the Slaters and is registered in the name of Mrs Slater’s 16-year-old daughter Amanda. She is going to puppy classes and can do “different tricks” already: “she’s very clever”. It is hoped she will be able to “help a lot” with the family’s sheep.
Meanwhile her mother, Mystery, has proved a star. From being brought up in Birmingham, never seeing grass and having “no idea” how to react when introduced to the Slaters’ garden, she can now caa sheep and get them into the crö.
Mystery will not have any more puppies, but it is hoped her three offspring will breed.
But breeding is not easy and it has been a struggle to produce these babies. “It’s no been for the want of trying,” said Mrs Slater, who did successfully breed puppies up to 15 years ago.
So did Lorna Burgess from Dunrossness and Catherine Jamie-son from Walls, who both had a “good few” litters of puppies.
Now Mrs Slater sincerely hopes there will one day be more pure-bred Shetland sheepdogs in the isles, although it is problematical given the shortage of partners. “It’s so sad they’re dying out – we’re doing our best.”
Meanwhile she would love to see the dogs featured on postcards – pictures of puppies among daffodils of the flower park would be delightful, she said.
However the future may be brighter for the breed than has been feared as a male puppy has recently arrived in Gulberwick.
● Anyone wishing for more information about the puppies can phone the Slaters on (01595) 810 388.